A Ballade of Philomela

by
Charles G.D. Roberts
divider

From gab of jay and chatter of crake
The dusk wood covered me utterly.
And here the tongue of the thrush was awake.
Flame-floods out of the low bright sky
Lighted the gloom with gold-brown dye,
Before dark; and a manifold chorussing
Arose of thrushes remote and nigh,—
For the tongue of the singer needs must sing.

Midmost a close green covert of brake
A brown bird listening silently
Sat; and I thought—"She grieves for the sake
Of Itylus,—for the stains that lie
In her heritage of sad memory."
But the thrushes were hushed at evening.
Then I waited to hear the brown bird try,—
For the tongue of the singer needs must sing.

And I said—"The thought of the thrushes Will shake
With rapture remembered her heart; and her shy
Tongue of the dear times dead will take
To make her a living song, when sigh
The soft night winds disburthened by.
Hark now!"—for the upraised quivering wing,
The throat exultant, I could descry,—
And the tongue of the singer needs must sing!

L'Envoi.

But the bird dropped dead with only a cry.
I found its tongue was withered, poor thing!
Then I no whit wondered, for well knew I
That the heart of the singer will break or sing.

From In Divers Tones.

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Added 23 November 2008.
Updated 23 November 2008.